October 23, 2014

Finding the Right Medical School For You: Your Questions Answered

[caption id="attachment_1688" align="alignright" width="335"] The next episode of The Pulse is scheduled for Monday, November 17, 2014 @ 8pm ET, where we'll discuss post-bacc programs.[/caption]   We had a great Pulse event on Monday night where we talked about finding the right medical school for you. The Pulse featured admissions and MCAT experts and most importantly, lots of interaction from viewers like you! Here's a sample of the wonderful questions we received on Twitter via #kaplanpulse and our answers:  
[embed]https://twitter.com/the_quotinator/status/524353729080729602[/embed]
Emily: Absolutely! If you're planning to apply to a D.O. school, most require you to shadow a D.O. and have a recommendation from a D.O. as well. You'll want to highlight your knowledgeability about osteopathic medicine via these requirements. If you're applying to an M.D. school, most don't require a specific M.D. recommendation, but it definitely can't hurt. Also, you'll need to have experience shadowing and volunteering in medical settings regardless of which school you apply to. This leads us to our next set of questions. [embed]https://twitter.com/the_quotinator/status/524354554801180672[/embed] [embed]https://twitter.com/Triple_Ess_/status/524356279259893761[/embed]
Emily: Finding opportunities to shadow and volunteer can definitely be a struggle as a pre-med student. Volunteering opportunities can be medically based, but don't have to be. For medical volunteering, contact your local hospitals and clinics since most of them will have established volunteer options. I actually just began calling clinics in my area that I thought could use my help and the first one I called said yes! You can also contact any non-profit in your area as they're likely to need volunteers. Schools, libraries, and religious institutions are other non-medical places that LOVE having smart, responsible, pre-med volunteers. Since most of medicine is focused on helping others, volunteering in any capacity gives you substance for your personal statement and interviews! Volunteering abroad is a great way to get exposure to another culture and help you stand out in the applicant pool.
I actually found my shadowing opportunity through volunteering at the Native American Community Clinic in Minneapolis. After volunteering there a while, I asked the providers if I could shadow them and they agreed. The key here is to not be shy and don't be discouraged when physicians say no. There are lots of physicians in the world, so find one who wants a med student and ask them!
[embed]https://twitter.com/SufyanAhmad1/status/524355485353267201[/embed]
Emily: This is a popular question because pre-med students are always thinking ahead about the best ways to use their time! Volunteering, working and shadowing are great ways to stand out. To use your time effectively, you may consider studying abroad during the summer. That way you can get all the benefits of studying abroad without losing important time during the school year that you may need for your pre-requisite classes
 
DM @KaplanMCATPrep MD school asks why I did not apply to DO or vice versa. Appropriate way to answer or place to find my answer?   — LoLo (@DocHopeful1)
Emily:  I'm glad you brought this up! I got asked a similar question in an interview I did for medical school, so this is an important question to have an answer prepped for. The best answer is a truthful answer. If you don't believe in the overarching philosophy of either the osteopathic or allopathic medical school, that's an easy place to start. You can speak specifically to a program or opportunities which you're excited about and is offered by the school at which you're interviewing. The most important piece to answering this question is to be knowledgeable. Know the differences between the two programs so you can speak intelligently about your answers and have a reason why you choose one over the other.
[embed]https://twitter.com/khathinhi/status/524353931586314240[/embed]
Emily: This is a common experience for lots of pre-med students. You go through an entire admissions cycle only to find out that you didn't get in to any schools. Most importantly, don't despair! Contact the admissions offices to see if they can give feedback on specific aspects of your application. Often they're willing to give you an idea of where your application could be strengthened. With that knowledge in hand, go ahead and fix those aspects! If your GPA is low, take more classes or consider a Masters degree or Post-Bacc program. If your MCAT score is low, plan to re-take the MCAT. If you need more shadowing or volunteer hours, see the response above and get out there and get those hours!
[embed]https://twitter.com/Useltime/status/524354725429649408[/embed]
Emily: Earlier is always better since there are more spots available in the class. This is why we suggest turning in your primary and secondary applications as soon as you possibly can. If you have a later interview date, make sure that you're extra prepared to stand out. Your interviewers know that you've had more time to practice and they've seen a lot of interviewees already. Make sure you're prepared!
[embed]https://twitter.com/DurdenThomas/status/524355095740555266[/embed] Emily: Fortunately the tides are turning and certain programs are favoring the D.O. specific skill set. While historically, there may have been issues, healthcare is rapidly evolving on this front. If you're interested in becoming a D.O., check out AACOM.org and see all your options!
[embed]https://twitter.com/DurdenThomas/status/524357036797329409[/embed]
Emily: Yes! D.O.'s who go into primary care are eligible for NHSC loan repayment and tuition programs.
[embed]https://twitter.com/lilmissjackson/status/524359146087669760[/embed]
Emily: The AAMC has already begun crafting the percentiles using the scores from the optional practice sections that current MCAT students take at the end of their exams. To learn more about how the new MCAT is scored, check out the AAMC site.
[embed]https://twitter.com/yismael/status/524361934015971328[/embed]
Emily: Caribbean schools can be an option for most students. The difficulty comes with trying to get a residency spot in the match process. Some schools in the Caribbean don't have as high of a placement rate as most U.S. medical schools do.
[embed]https://twitter.com/JaniceTjeng/status/524362213226594304[/embed] [embed]https://twitter.com/yismael/status/524362305656459264[/embed]
Emily: You can start as early as today! You can read about different schools on their admissions websites or through AACOM's Osteopathic Medical College Information Book (CIB) or AAMC's Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR). The information there will give you specifics about applicants average scores, acceptance and other admissions data. They will also list important information like tuition, fees and how many of their students receive financial support. You definitely want to start thinking about schools a few months before the application cycle opens in June. That way you'll have enough time to find specific people to write your recommendation letters and ensure that you'll have completed all the prerequisite coursework. Of course, you'll want to consider all the factors that determine which medical school is a good fit for you.
[embed]https://twitter.com/ThatGuy_Scotty/status/524357918137671680[/embed] [embed]https://twitter.com/Triple_Ess_/status/524357928481218562[/embed]
Emily: There are lots of different options for Masters degrees and Post Bacc programs! Our Kaplan Pulse episode on November 17th at 8pm Eastern time will also focus on all of your different Masters and Post Bacc program options. It's a wonderful opportunity to learn all about the nuances when choosing between Masters programs and Post bacc programs. They are definitely a good way to bump up your GPA and show medical schools that you can handle working through tough classes. If you're going to get a Masters degree though, I suggest picking a field in which you actually have some interest since you're going to be studying it pretty intensely!
[embed]https://twitter.com/LABLEU90/status/524364475043155968[/embed]
Emily: You can find out more about the MCAT Foundations program and upcoming schedules online or by calling 1-800-Kaptest. The next class starts on 10/28! We'd love to have you!
So, that's it for our reKap of questions from Monday night's Pulse event. We'd love to have you at the next Pulse event on 11/17 at 8pm Eastern time! Reserve your seat today.
Until then, Happy studying!
...read more
October 14, 2014

Medical School Interview Tips and Tricks

Hello my excited interviewees! Medical school interview season is off to a great start and as you well know, a successful interview is the last step between you and acceptance to the med school of your choice.  I have written past blog posts about my own interview experiences and the best advice I've been given, but today I'd like to share with you medical school interview tips from an insider's perspective! One of the best experiences that I've had this year is getting to be a student interviewer for the University of Colorado. I think it's great that most medical schools integrate current medical students into the interview process, since we've jumped through the same hoops recently and have a different perspective than admissions people or doctors who have been practicing for years. We're basically invested in selecting our future colleagues. It's a lot of power and responsibility. Fortunately for you, this means I can give you some tips and tricks to make your interview as great as possible! Disclaimer: In this article, I am speaking on behalf of myself and not my university. While I can't share specific questions that we ask or the criteria on which you're judged (beyond what's available on the admissions website), I can give you insight from fellow student interviewers and myself.  

Medical School Interview Tips

Tip #1- Practice makes perfect, but don't overdo it

It's a smart idea to practice your answers to common interview questions beforehand. You can be pretty sure that most interviewers will ask you why you want to be a doctor, and you don't want to be stuck saying, "uuhhh, ummm, because my dad was a doctor?" You want to have an answer ready that's well thought out and sounds intelligent. Practicing in front of a mirror, videotaping yourself, and getting feedback from friends, family, and your pre-med advisor will help ensure that you are ready to give your optimal answer on interview day. The flip-side to this problem is that you don't want to sound too canned. This is actually trickier than preparing your answer in the first place! Especially after a few interviews, it's hard to keep your answer sounding fresh. Again, I suggest running your answers by the people who know you best to make sure that you're not sounding bored while you answer.  

Tip #2- Pick three things you want your interviewer to remember

I have given this advice before and I'll give it again. Most pre-meds have the same set of essential information. You've all done volunteer work, research, shadowing; you all have great GPA's and MCAT scores. Your interview is a chance to set yourself apart from the crowd. Pick three characteristics, experiences or assets that you want the interviewer to remember about you. So, what makes you stand out as an applicant? Why are you uniquely qualified to go to medical school and become a doctor? Personally, I emphasized my background in public health and how I work to tie it to medicine, my quality of perseverance and my work with diverse populations. Be careful to make sure that you're not just rehashing your personal statement, since most interviewers will have access to it before your interview.  

Tip #3- Conversations are more fun than listening to someone talk about how fantastic they are

Remember that your interviewer is another human, much like your future patients will be. Most interviewers are looking, on some level, at your communication skills. The communication skills that will make you an effective, empathetic doctor will also make you a strong interviewee. Make sure to listen to the questions, pause and respond accordingly. Don't be afraid to smile or use expressive body language as long as it's appropriate. It's not fun for anyone to listen to someone list off all the reasons that they're soooo wonderful. So, make sure that you're not just bragging and that you're connecting with your interviewer.  

Medical School Interview Tricks

Trick #1- Leave early for your interview.

Most schools are helpful and provide you with maps and room numbers for your interview, but to reduce stress, you should leave extra early. Being calm and unstressed will help you perform better during the interview itself.  

Trick #2- Stay with a current student. 

Traveling to interviews can be wildly expensive. Make sure to ask if the school has a way for you to stay with a student host. Most schools will offer a student host as an option. In addition to being cheaper than a hotel, staying with a student host is a good way to find out more about the student body and how students really live.  

Trick #3- Bring something to write on/with.

You should come prepared with your own list of questions for the interviewer to help you evaluate the schools you visit.  A week or a month after an interview, especially if you've had several, it can be hard to remember specific details about each school. Taking notes will help you to remember important impressions from your day at the school.  

Trick #4- Send thank you notes. 

This is actually just good manners, but you should send thank you notes to your interviewers and the admissions staff with whom you interact. It won't guarantee your entrance by any means, but it will reinforce the impression that you have solid communication skills.   There you have it! I'd love to hear any interview questions that you have. Go ahead and post them in the comments! I'd also love to read the best interview advice that you've gotten! Happy interviewing! ...read more
October 6, 2014

Fantasy Med School Draft: Finding Your Perfect Medical School

Hello my friendly fall readers! The leaves are changing and we can now expect a weekly dose of fantasy football related Facebook updates. For medical school applicants, however, fall means that you're drafting your perfect list of medical school qualities instead of a great wide receiver. So, today let's talk about which characteristics you should consider when drafting and finding your perfect medical school!  

Size

Size is an important factor to examine when you're picking a medical school. You want to examine not only the size of each class, but also the size of the entire school. Class size is important for access to professors and the camaraderie of your class group. However, there's a big difference between having a medical school in the middle of a bustling, 30,000 strong undergraduate crowd and having a medical school that stands unattached or distantly attached from an undergrad base. Overall university size is a factor that I didn't really consider when I was looking at medical schools, but I've really grown to love the fact the University of Colorado medical school is separated from the undergraduate campus. The advantage to the separation is that I'm not constantly fighting for research spots, shadowing spots or opportunities with any undergraduate students. That means that every lab and physician is more than happy to have a medical student. That said, it also means that overall there are fewer researchers with slightly more limited areas of study because there are fewer students overall. You want to make sure your ideal medical school has the right size-balance for you!  

Location

I cannot stress this piece enough. Every medical school will give you, more or less, the same amount of information in your first two years of medical school. Yes, there are variations on format and other opportunities which we'll cover, but the content is that same. What that means is, one of the major variable factors to your experience is the location of the school. Do you want to live in a major city? Do you want a smaller location in a more rural situation? There are medical schools in a variety of city sizes. What kinds of activities will help you feel satisfied and happy with your med school choice? How close are these activities? For example if you're into skiing, Iowa might not be the right state for you to move to.  Is it important for you to get away from home or be a short flight or car-ride away from your support system? I'm always a little bummed out that I'm out-of-state and away from my family and friends. Fortunately, the flight from Denver to Minneapolis is usually relatively cheap and is less than two hours long. Location is vitally important to your happiness and overall medical school experience, so take time to examine the locations of your potential medical schools.  

Student Body

Again, I'd like to emphasize that the classwork is pretty standard, but the people with whom you share your experience can vary greatly and overall impact your success. Do you want a more collaborative student body? Make sure you ask about whether students study together when you go for your interview day. Are you driven by competition to study hard? Great! Then make sure that competition is highly valued among your potential future classmates. You should also check out the average statistical values for incoming classes. If you’re applying to US allopathic (MD) medical schools, visit the AMCAS website and check out the latest Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) guide. If you’re applying to osteopathic (DO) medical programs, you should visit the AACOM website and check out the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book. Things to look out for would be average class age, different measurements of diversity, whether people commonly took time off, do most students have graduate degrees and whether the majority of students are married. You want to get a feel for the student body and whether it meshes well with your medical school needs.  

Opportunities

Yes, you'll spend a lot of time during medical school in class, but don't forget about other opportunities! If working abroad is important to you, make sure that you ask about established study abroad programs at your school. Can you do any rotations or projects abroad? If you're into volunteering or extracurriculars, make sure to ask how easy it is to get involved and talk to current students about their lives outside of school. Opportunities also include topics like scholarships, foci or areas of emphasis for students, potential for getting a dual degree like an MD/MPH or MD/MBA, and where students from the school are commonly matched for residency. It may seem right now that getting into any medical school that will take you is your priority and trust me, I get that. You do want to spend some time thinking about how a particular medical school will suit you. Choosing the right medical school goes far beyond the rankings. You're going to spend a fair amount of money investing into your education and working in pursuit of your “good life,” so make sure to think about how you're drafting your fantasy medical school (at least for as long as you think about your fantasy football team each week)! Happy studying!   Want to browse through different careers in your area of interest, see what test scores will get you into the top schools, and read interviews from people like you who have succeeded in pursuing their dreams? All this and more is available at kaptest.com/unlock. Just by visiting and filling out your info, you’ll be entered to win $10,000. The good life is closer than you think. ...read more
October 2, 2014

Becoming a Well-Rounded PreMedical Student

Through Kaplan’s exclusive, national partnership with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), we will be providing a series of personal stories from AMSA leaders about their pre-medical experience and journey to medical school. Jai Kumar Mediratta: University of Nebraska-Lincoln   [caption id="attachment_1632" align="alignright" width="278"] Jai getting involved at Camp Kesem (http://campkesem.org)[/caption] “GET INVOLVED!” said every pre-health advisor ever. I would be willing to wager that there is a brightly decorated bulletin board in your career center that is dedicated to this very theme. Today, more often than not, “getting involved” is associated with being “well-rounded,” and as a premedical student, you are familiar with the concept of a “well-rounded” individual. It is a common theme that has been championed by medical school admission committees. The Association of American Medical Colleges even makes this point on their medical school admission requirements page by saying that: “A well-rounded sampling of extracurricular activities or work experiences, both related and unrelated to medicine, will help broaden an applicant's knowledge and development.“ However, what is the “well-rounded individual” and why is it important to be one? I argue that the well-rounded individual is simply someone who pursues his or her natural curiosity. This is not only important for medical school admissions, but also for your long-term success. Here’s why:   1. You are truly motivated when you follow your passions At times, you may feel like the famous titan Atlas, bearing the brunt of the world on your shoulders and it’s easy to become jaded when harboring these feelings. With the pressures of classes, MCAT studying, maintaining your health, and balancing your social life, you do not want your extracurricular to become a burden or a responsibility. The old adage goes “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” As a future physician, this quote is incredibly relevant to your profession but it also applies to your current premedical experience and extracurricular activities. When you follow your interests, you are motivated to actively involve yourself.   2. Natural motivation allows you to excel in your organization Along with the natural motivation comes a more active involvement and enthusiasm, both of which are necessary to excel in your position. Medical schools are aware of the sophomoric numbers game that some applications play: it’s not about quantity of organizations you are involved with; it’s about your level of involvement. Tangential to this is your progression of your involvement and this is where leadership positions come into play. I would like to quote the famous rapper Drake: “Started from the bottom, now I’m here” This not only applies to his personal struggles, but also to your experience with an organization or extracurricular activity.   3. An increased level of involvement allows for a diversity of experiences and this benefits medical school admissions. As you pursue your interests, and become more involved with the select few organizations you are truly passionate about, you will realize that discussing your involvement becomes second nature. This alleviates a major part of the stress associated with medical school interviews because a great interview is nothing more than a great conversation.   4. The experiences you gather from your deep involvement also benefit you in the long run. Your college experience does not have to be dominated or defined by your premedical experience. In other words, just as the AAMC suggested, it’s highly encouraged that you follow your curiosities, even if they lie outside the realm of medicine. If you decide to deeply involve yourself in a non-medical extracurricular, you are not only benefiting your medical school application, but also yourself in the long run. In our society today where medicine is becoming increasingly integrated with the fields of research, business, and public policy, a diverse set of skills is highly valued. This is evident by the increasing demand for dual degree programs such as MD/PhD, MD/MBA, or MD/MPHs. The premedical experience is overwhelmingly stressful. As you power through the rigorous weed out science classes, the late night study sessions, the MCAT preparation, you will find that your extracurricular activities will act as a reprieves. They will be activities you look forward to doing every week and following your interests and passions will only enhance this experience. It really is that easy, folks. Just do what you love and you too can be “well-rounded”   Now that you’ve read about Jai Kumar Mediratta’s journey to unlocking the good life and getting into medical school, we’d like to hear from you!  Tell us what the good life means to you in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. Visit our Unlock the Good Life site and find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries and read profiles of people just like you who followed their dreams. ...read more
September 24, 2014

Top 5 Tips for Veterans Getting into Medical School

Veterans returning from military duty, whose numbers have exceeded one million since the 2001 terrorist attacks, often return to unfavorable circumstances, including a much steeper unemployment rate than the general population. For some, the pursuit of higher education—even getting into medical school—presents a good way to improve job outlook and unlock the good life.  

How to get into medical school after returning from military service

It’s common for future doctors to worry about how to get into medical school, no matter what their qualifications—and it helps to remember that all the current doctors out there once worried about it too—so it should be comforting for veterans to know that they are already sitting on numerous advantages when it comes to their “soft”—or transferrable—skills. While most medical school applicants have only their grades, classes, GPA, and MCAT scores to work on (and you’re not off the hook when it comes to these either!), you also have other ideal attributes that will both set you apart and help carry you through your medical school education and beyond, into your career as a doctor. In addition, there is a high demand for physicians these days, partly created by increased access to medical service and an aging generation of baby boomers—not to mention long-term care for other returning military personnel. Here are some features you can highlight about yourself through the lens of your military service for the purpose of getting into medical school.

1. Leadership … and service 

Whatever your rank in the military, you’ve played the role of both a leader and a follower. Doctors are used to being regarded as leaders and independent thinkers, but they sometimes resist being led.

Especially in residency, you will have to exhibit both of these soft skills, knowing when to speak and when to listen.

2. Commitment

If you’ve served in the armed forces, chances are you understand what it means to commit, and—believe it or not—med school admissions committees are going to consider this right along with your GPA, classes, and MCAT scores.

Commitment is especially key when it comes to getting into medical school, which can take—with residency and other post-graduate training—anywhere from seven to 12 years to complete, depending on your chosen area of specialization.

Unlike more traditional applicants, whose experiences may be limited to undergraduate education and all its associated requirements, you have already made a major life commitment, and this shows medical schools that you will have the stamina to make it through those grueling years of residency and training.

3. Diversity

The military is far from homogenous. While serving your country, you’ve learned to work together with and in service of people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Medical schools are always looking to build a diverse cohort that will engage and challenge the class as a whole; plus, as a physician, you will also work with a diverse patient population. Not only are you used to working with different people; your military services also enhance the cohort.

4. Practical experience

As a former member of the military, your experience isn’t theoretical or academic; it’s practical. The average medical school applicants are 24 years old and not so far from their undergraduate lives. As such, their experience in the so-called “real world” is limited.

Military service, even without combat duty, is about as “real world” as you get. Stakes and consequences are high—often, in fact, life and death—not unlike decisions you will also be making as a physician.

5. Maturity and focus

Military veterans applying to medical school tend to be older and may even have spouses and dependents. Veterans have seen and experienced things a newly-minted college grad hasn’t. Medical school is long, arduous, and mentally and physically demanding—something you’ve certainly dealt with in the line of duty.

 

Beyond the MCAT score: highlighting your military strengths

There are always things you can do—other than studying for the MCAT, focusing on your grades/GPA by acing your classes, and fulfilling all the additional requirements—to get noticed by the medical school admissions committees. Here are some things you can focus on for getting into medical school:
  • Emphasize collaboration: In the military, it’s all about the collective effort, and you know how to work well on a team. Being a doctor also involves a collaboration between professionals in service of their patients, not to mention collaborative efforts between physicians and patients.
  • Close the gap: Getting into medical school can be competitive and academically demanding. If there is a significant time gap between your undergraduate education and your application to med school, you may need to take or retake the basic core science classes, not to mention the MCAT. Consider a postbaccalaureate premed program to strengthen or enhance your academic credentials.
  • Respect the MCAT: Your military experience can enhance your application, personal statement, and interview, but it won’t guarantee you a top MCAT score. The mean MCAT score for matriculants in 2013 was 31.3; that’s the 83rd percentile.
  • Get clinical: Gaining clinical experience in preparation for your medical school application will not only give you a better understanding of what physicians do, but it can also confirm your desire to pursue medical education. Furthermore, most medical school admissions officers say that clinical experience is a significant factor in deciding whether to admit a candidate.
  • Research and network: Research military-friendly medical schools and reach out to veterans who are attending. Your military network is huge, so take advantage of it by asking a fellow vet for advice. Many schools also make an effort to adopt a military-friendly admission process: contributing to the Yellow Ribbon program, having Veteran Services on campus, or waiving application fees for veterans.
  • Get personal: Your personal statement is your chance to highlight what you’ve learned in the military and connect the dots to why you want to go to medical school and become a doctor. Don’t shy away from your military experience, and tell a good story!
We want to hear from you. Tell us how you’ve unlocked the good life after your military service.   ...read more
September 17, 2014

What to Expect as a Pre-Med

Hello my eager, freshman readers! Today, I'd like to talk about what to expect as a pre-med student (aka step one in becoming a doctor and living your version of the “good life”). So, you're super excited to start four years of pre-med awesomeness! Let's set appropriate expectations for this time in your life.

There will be challenges

The nice thing about being a pre-med student is that you can major in pretty much anything. I have classmates that majored in engineering, art, music, business, Spanish, English and pretty much every other major you can think of. Regardless of your major, however, you'll need to take pre-med prerequisite classes such as Organic Chemistry, Upper level Biology, Physics, and for the upcoming 2015 MCAT changes, Biochemistry, Psychology and Sociology. The diversity of required classes means that eventually you're going to run into a topic that will challenge you academically. The key is how you respond to the struggle. For me personally, it was Organic Chemistry. Every test in that class was a battle. Nothing came easily and I absolutely dreaded O Chem lab. That said, I learned a lot from truly struggling with material and it better prepared me for some of the challenges I have faced in medical school. There will also be the challenge of balancing your school life, social life and work life. Pre-med schedules are notoriously difficult with lots of lab classes, extracurriculars, volunteering as well as physician shadowing. It can be difficult to avoid feeling crunched for time and overwhelmed. Finding balance is, unfortunately, a struggle that you will carry with you to medical school. However, if you work on good work-life balance struggles now, you'll be practiced and ready to face the same challenge head-on in medical school. You may also be worried already about the MCAT on the horizon your junior or senior year. Fortunately as freshman, your focus is on building a strong science and overall GPA for your med school application a few years from now!  

There will be opportunities

Going through college as a pre-med doesn't mean you have to study all the time. There are lots of really neat medical-related opportunities, such as shadowing a physician or volunteering in a hospital. Additionally, there are tons of non-medical opportunities. You can study abroad! You can join an obscure club. You can use this time to explore all of your interests and make some great friends in the process. The bonus here is that your quirky hobby could make your medical school application that much more memorable! Everyone who applies has shadowing experience and has volunteered throughout their college experience, but not many were concert pianists or the president of the unicycle club. Interviewers love to talk about your passions and will remember you better because of them. Don't be afraid to try something new!  

You can have fun and make life-long friends

I know that it's intimidating to go to college and make an entirely new group of friends, especially when you're in a competitive program as many pre-med programs tend to be. That said, some of my best friends from college were other pre-med students. Now, we're all in different stages of our journey to become healthcare providers! My best friends when I was 18 have grown into colleagues that I respect and adore. How does that happen? You end up spending lots of late nights studying and working on projects together. You struggle through the same classes with difficult professors. They grow to be your support system as well as the people with whom you have many wonderful memories. Being pre-meds brings people together! So, get excited for your next four years! You're in for some struggles, new friends and tons of fun, in-between all of your studying that is. What are you most excited about as a pre-med? Visit our Unlock the Good Life site and find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries, read profiles of people just like you who followed their dreams, and see how far a higher MCAT score can take you. Happy studying! ...read more
September 8, 2014

Back-to-School Pre-Med Resolutions

[caption id="attachment_1576" align="alignright" width="225"] Emily and her roommates on the first day of their second year of medical school.[/caption] Hello my scholarly pre-med readers! Let’s talk about our pre-med resolutions for this year! Summer is winding down and for many of you sophomores, juniors and seniors, that means it's time to head back to school. Now, the novelty of college may have worn off and moving back into a dorm room or frat house may not be as exciting as it was your freshman year. You may be dreading classes such as Organic Chemistry or Cell Physiology (a notedly difficult class at my undergrad, Lawrence University). You may also be about to fall into some familiar study habits and patterns that keep you from achieving your dream grades and getting your GPA up. Let’s tackle these bad habits head-on, so that you can have the best GPA and MCAT score possible for your medical school application and increase your chances of getting in! You've heard of New Years resolutions; you might have seen my own med school resolutions article in January. Today I want to help you create your own list of new school year, pre-med resolutions! Side-note- these are partially inspired by my own list of resolutions for my second year of medical school. You never stop needing to shake bad habits! Together, let’s work to make this year wonderful so we can start living the good life!

Resolution #1- Spend less time on Social Media/the internet in general

The day before I test, I guarantee that I know everyone's Facebook status and have thoroughly stalked any pictures that have been posted in the last month. Unfortunately, the fact that my cousin ate a really great slice of pizza during her New York vacation last week is not information that will be on my test the next day. Now, you don't have to go as radical as deactivating your Facebook account, but you should definitely limit your time on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever your time-wasting site of choice may be. Set a timer or have a friend remind you to hop off! I find that I am most productive if I print my notes and close my computer when I study. Hard on the trees, but much better for my studies.

Resolution #2- Plan Your Fun

Lots of people might tell you that school should be focused solely on studying and that fun should be a secondary concern. However, since the majority of medical school students and physicians will at some point struggle with burn-out, I suggest learning how to plan in time for your fun now. It will help you keep your sanity and make your study-time more effective since you've been able to blow off steam. Practically speaking, if there's a football game on Saturday and you plan to tailgate and spend the day at the stadium, also plan to stay in and study on Friday night. It may seem horrifically lame, but in the long run you'll enjoy your time at the game more if you know that you put in some good study time the night before.

Resolution #3- Get Some Sleep

Research continues to illustrate the benefits of getting a good night of sleep (we're talking eight hours here people). Getting insufficient amounts of sleep has been linked to negative consequences such as poor academic performance, increased obesity and a greater number of car accidents. I can hear you protesting already. "But Emily," you say, "I'm just so busy! There aren't enough hours in the day!" I agree that with a packed pre-med schedule, prioritizing sleep is extremely difficult. That said, I am in a class with 159 other medical students and nearly every single one of them will attest to the fact that they make sure to get a good night's sleep as often as possible and especially the night before an exam. If a bunch of medical students who are involved in student council, clinic, volunteering, research, sports/athletic pursuits, and a million other things can make sure to get eight hours of sleep, so can you!

Resolution #4- Prep for the MCAT

If you haven’t already signed up for your Kaplan MCAT class, now is a great time to do so! There is still time to take the MCAT before the test changes go into effect in 2015. We’ve already talked about the fact that the MCAT is an important factor in boosting your application even after your GPA is pretty much solidified. So, why wait? Get started prepping for the MCAT today!   We want to hear from you! What are your New School Year’s Pre-Med Resolutions? What bad habits are you trying to kick to help you rock your GPA, destroy the MCAT, and move closer towards your “good life”? Visit our Unlock the Good Life site and find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries, read profiles of successful people, and see how far a higher MCAT score can take you. Happy studying! ...read more
September 4, 2014

How Many People Get Into Medical School?

Hello my med-school hopeful readers! Today I'd like to talk about a question you may be wondering: “how many people get into medical school?” Getting accepted is the first key to unlocking the "good life" through a career in medicine, so let's discuss the recent admissions stats in detail.

Medical School by the Numbers

According to the AAMC, in 2013, over 48,000 people applied to medical school in the U.S., which was a record number! Of those nearly fifty thousand applicants, just over 20,000 (20,055) of them matriculated into their first year of medical school. This is the first year that medical school matriculations topped 20,000! Fortunately for you hopeful applicants, medical schools continue to add spots to meet demand for future physicians. Fun Medical School Application Facts:
  • The application pool is nearly evenly split between males (53%) and females (47%).
  • Most applicants report backgrounds with research and/or community service, which is pretty typical.
  • In the past twenty or so years, medical school first-year enrollments have increased by almost 22%!
Okay so, less than half of applicants end up matriculating in a given cycle. What does that mean for you as a future applicant? Well, the same AAMC report states that the average applicant in 2013 had an undergraduate GPA of 3.54 and a median MCAT score of 29.

Should You Focus on Your GPA, the MCAT, or Both?

If you're early in your undergraduate career, focusing on your GPA to get it above the average is a great start. You want to build a solid foundation for your application and, more importantly, your knowledge base when you start medical school. Keep the MCAT in the back of your mind, but focus on your undergrad classes for the first two years. If you're later in your undergraduate career, say Junior or Senior year, or even graduated, the MCAT is where you want to focus your energy. That doesn't mean you can neglect your undergrad classes, but your GPA is less mobile at this point. That means the MCAT is one of the major admission factors, which you can impact to improve your application. The average applicant may have an MCAT score of 29, however the average matriculant score is closer to 31. What that means is, every MCAT point counts!

New Medical School Options

In the next two years, we can expect seven new medical schools to open in the United States in Washington, Alabama, Indiana, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Oregon. What’s even more interesting is that all of these programs are Osteopathic Medical Schools, which reflects on the growing popularity of these programs. Often, pre medical students forget that both M.D. (allopathically trained) and D.O. (osteopathically trained) physicians are licensed in the United States, and with the shift towards more primary care physicians, the osteopathic path is a natural fit since historically, the majority of its graduates practice as a primary care physician. But the news gets even better! Currently, there are 23 schools throughout the United States that are forming and awaiting accreditation and the split is about 50/50 between M.D. granting and D.O. granting programs. So the opportunities to study medicine in the U.S. will continue to be on the rise for current undergraduates. Be sure to explore all of your options, so you find the right fit! Kaplan can help you achieve your MCAT goals, guiding you toward a successful medical school application and a career in medicine.  Each point that you increase on the MCAT moves you past thousands of other applicants and moving towards your true goal of becoming a physician and living your version of the “good life”! We want to hear from you!Tell us what the good life means to you in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. We may share your story in an upcoming post. Then stay tuned for more articles to get you inspired! Visit kaptest.com/unlock to see what the good life has in store. Happy studying! ...read more
September 3, 2014

Top Loan Forgiveness Programs for Students Facing Medical School Debt

As a pre-medical or medical student, you may not be worried about your future earnings as a doctor: after all, seven of the top-10 best paying jobs of 2014 are in health care. But that’s cold comfort when your post-medical school debt could pay for the average American home in full. The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimated that the median four-year cost to attend med school, including living expenses and books, for the class of 2013 was $278,455 at private schools and $207,868 at public ones. With nearly a fifth of students taking on more than $250,000 in education debt, many pre-med and medical students are looking to mitigate their impending debt by seeking out loan repayment, forgiveness programs, and scholarships available to current and future doctors. So, what to do when medicine is your calling but the thought of a six-figure debt also rings loudly in your ears? Among your options, the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program and several other state- and school-specific scholarship programs reward you for providing primary healthcare in Health Professions Shortage Areas upon graduation.

Service incentives for med school students

Physicians, but also physician assistants, nurses, and other health professionals who commit to serving areas in need can have their medical school debt paid for, often on a one-for-one basis. One popular initiative is the Student to Service Program, which offers up to $120,000 to med students (MD and DO) in their last year of school in return for a commitment to provide at least three years of primary care at an approved Health Professional Shortage Area. While these programs represent a way to become debt-free faster, the intangible rewards go deeper. “I think altruism is a big motivation,” says Meredith Henson Talley, Director of Student Services and Admissions at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine. “Most students will tell you they want to go into medicine to help people. In Tulsa, students have a chance to not only learn to treat patients and improve their health, but to think about system change and improving the health of whole communities. There are great scholarships and service incentives available and I’m sure that is a motivation for students.”

The need for community physicians

In the AAMC’s December 2013 Academic Medicine journal, Dr. Gerard P. Clancy, president of the University of Oklahoma–Tulsa campus, cited a 2006 analysis of public health data by the OU College of Public Health that revealed a 14-year difference in life expectancy between residents of Tulsa’s predominantly African-American north region and its predominantly Caucasian south region. To address the disparity, medical schools in the area needed to not only think outside the box; they needed new boxes altogether. “We also realized that a new kind of physician and physician assistant are needed. A kind of provider that really understands the needs of the community of the population they are serving, and thinks outside the box when treating their patients,” says Talley. And it’s working! The Tulsa World says preliminary findings show that more than half of the key health outcome indicators improved in the last four years.

Why work in community medicine?

Here are the top three reasons to pursue community medicine:
  1. You like to work on a team. “Students work […] right alongside students from other disciplines such as social work, pharmacy, and nursing. We practice team-based medicine, and I believe our students graduate with a great appreciation of the other disciplines and will carry that over into their careers,” says Talley.
  2. You see medicine as a bigger picture. Talley says that in Tulsa, “students have a chance to not only learn to treat patients and improve their health, but to think about system change and improving the health of whole communities.”
  3. You like to approach problems in a non-traditional way. Through managing chronic diseases such as obesity, OU medical students realized their patients didn’t have a place to exercise, which led to a partnership with the YMCA and better access to exercise for patients.
Applying to medical school can be a daunting process. Between juggling AMCAS, the MCAT, and FAFSA, if you choose to pursue one of the Health and Human Services scholarship programs, consider a few Dos and Don’ts:
  • DON’T gloss over the fine print. Committing to these programs shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. What happens if you change your mind?
  • DO consider your motivations. Are you passionate about providing for underserved communities?
  • DON’T skip the internship. See if rural or community medicine is for you before making your decision.
  • DO expect to be creative and pragmatic. You will have to work with what you have.
Unlocking your good life by pursuing community and rural healthcare unlocks the good life for others, too. We want to hear from you! Tell us what the good life means to you in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. We may share your story in an upcoming post. Visit kaptest.com/unlock to see what the good life has in store.  Stay tuned for more personal stories to inspire you. ...read more

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